WHO declares international emergency over coronavirus

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The UN health agency on Thursday declared an international emergency over the deadly coronavirus from China — a rarely used designation that could lead to improved international co-ordination in tackling the disease.

“Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems…. This is not a vote of no confidence in China,” World Health Organization (WHO) chief WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a briefing in Geneva.

China reported its biggest single-day jump in novel coronavirus deaths on Thursday, as global fears deepened with more infections confirmed overseas including three Japanese evacuated from the outbreak’s epicentre.

The World Health Organization, which initially downplayed a disease that has now killed 170 in China, was readying to meet Thursday to decide whether to declare it a global emergency.

Many countries have urged their citizens not to visit China, while some have banned entry for travellers from Wuhan.

At least 15 countries have confirmed infections.

The US reported its first case of a person catching the virus from another person on American soil — a man in Chicago who contracted the illness from his wife who had travelled to Wuhan.

Airlines began cancelling flights servicing China on Wednesday, and more followed suit on Thursday.

More than 6,000 tourists were put under lockdown aboard a cruise ship at an Italian port after two Chinese passengers were isolated over fears they could be carrying the coronavirus.

Beijing has taken extreme steps to arrest the spread of the virus, including effectively quarantining more than 50 million people in Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province.

The government on Thursday reported 38 new deaths in the preceding 24 hours, the highest one-day total since the virus was detected late last year.

All but one of the new deaths were in Hubei.

The number of confirmed new cases also grew steadily to 7,711, the National Health Commission said. Another 81,000 people were under observation for possible infection.

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